The Great Neck Chinese Association (GNCA) recently honored three community organizers, Carol Peng, Jenny Li and Joseph Ko, at its annual summer festival.
Peng and her husband, Wen Wu, moved to Great Neck in 2007. She started volunteering with school activities when her older son entered Parkville five years ago. Peng served on the GNCA board in 2013–14, when she led and organized successful community events, such as the GNCA Lunar New Year Celebration, summer barbecue festival and North Hempstead Asian American Festival.
She is passionate about promoting Chinese culture and has created events such as the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration at Great Neck House and the Lunar New Year celebration at the Great Neck Library. She is praised by many fellow volunteers for her selfless devotion of her time and ideas.
Last year, she quit her full-time job to pursue her passion in community service. Peng currently serves on the Lakeville PTA and UPTC Education Enrichment Committee, while working part time for the Association of Chinese American Physicians, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide high-quality health care and community service to the Chinese-American communities in the New York area.
Li was born and raised in Shanghai and has lived in the United States for more than 30 years. She and her family moved to Great Neck seven years ago.
Li’s daughter is in college and her son will start high school in Great Neck in September. Li has always been an active volunteer in GNCA events and was nominated to receive the Lily Wang Award for being an unsung heroine. For three consecutive years, she worked as a backstage coordinator for the GNCA Lunar New Year celebration and united forces from various groups in the community.
Born overseas, Ko moved to the USA as a young child. He attended the New York City public school system and received degrees from Grinnell College and Teachers College at Columbia University.
While a student at Hunter College High School (HCHS), Ko saw firsthand the impact that great teachers could have on the intellectual and emotional development of their students.
Ko entered the teaching profession with the goal of finding employment in an educational setting where students and their families value learning as a means for both a fulfilling life and developing one’s personal potential. He also hoped to work in a school with a large immigrant community, so that he might be a role model for first-generation and
second-generation students the same way that several of his teachers at HCHS had been for him and his classmates.
Ko found all this as a social studies teacher in the Great Neck Public Schools for the past 18 years, where he has worked with students of every ability level, including regular, honors, AP and ESL, at almost every grade level at Great Neck South High School. He has gone above and beyond his duty as a teacher. Students know that his classroom is always open to them every day, often until 6:30 p.m., because that is when the last of the late buses take students home.
Ko treats his role as a teacher in the community as more of a calling than simply a job. At the award reception, Ko expressed his gratitude of working alongside many dedicated professionals “who have also selflessly served our students and have gone the extra mile for those who are most in need of assistance.”
He said, “I have not forgotten the example set by the late Jacob “Yonny” Julius and the late Tom Mattia, each of whom served the district for over 50 years of their lives and profoundly made a difference in countless lives within the community.”
The GNCA Lily Wang Community Service Award was established in 2016 by Wang’s family and the GNCA to promote community service and participation among residents in the Great Neck community. The award recognizes significant contributions made to the community by individuals in their private capacities.
GNCA is thankful to the generous donations made to the Lily Wang Fund from the community during the past three years. To donate with PayPal, send the gift to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make checks payable to the Great Neck Chinese Association, noting Lily Wang Fund on your contribution, and mail to PO Box 220442, Great Neck, NY 11022. For questions about the Lily Wang Community Service Award, contact Nathan Fong at email@example.com.